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An enthusiastic friend of students. A die-hard fan of all things Catamount. An efficient administrator, effective political advocate, willing traveler and collaborative partner in meeting the needs of students, faculty, staff and the region as a whole.

For the past two centuries, local historians and writers in England have produced a large number of municipal and county histories, a project formalized in 1899 with the Victoria County History project, a massive undertaking that, more than 100 years later, is still unfinished. These detailed records have proven invaluable for historians and biographers writing on a grander scale, allowing them to compile data and statistics on topics ranging from deaths attributed to the plague to the impact of railroad revenues and services on country life.

When rain finally quelled the wildfires running rampant through the Southeastern U.S. last year, the public was breathing a collective sigh of relief while the scientific community spotted an opportunity. Fall 2016 was a wildfire event unlike anything seen in recent history — in the eastern part of the country, at least — and the blazes left behind a natural laboratory to study what happens on a burned landscape once the flames fade.

“It’s a unique opportunity, because the forested areas — especially the high northern hardwoods areas — burn very infrequently,” said Sarah Workman, associate director of the Highlands Biological Station.

Pride-filled pandemonium reigned in Cherokee Saturday night, Dec. 8, as the victorious Cherokee Braves football team returned to town. Police cars and fire trucks from the Cherokee Police Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department flashed their lights and blared their horns in an escort that had met the buses all the way back at Balsam, and fireworks filled the air as fans already tired from the five-hour drive back from Raleigh cheered till they were hoarse.

After years of steady upward progress, the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate at Western Carolina University dipped slightly for students who enrolled as first-time, full-time freshmen in fall 2016.

When Chancellor David Belcher asked Sam Miller, Western Carolina University’s vice chancellor for students success, to tell the Board of Trustees about Western’s “terrifyingly good enrollment activity,” he was only half kidding about the word “terrifying” — but he was completely serious about the word “good.”

Through careers as students, teachers and administrators, David and Susan Belcher have marked the milestones of their lives in college campuses, but their 2011 arrival to Western Carolina University was the day they discovered their home. 

“It was kind of instant. It was kind of love at first sight,” Susan said. “It’s not the (natural) beauty. It’s the people. And it’s the community also. This region takes care of each other, through and through.” 

When Shining Rock Classical Academy opened in 2015, the public charter school was hailed as a victory for local proponents of school choice and promised to provide an academically rigorous, comprehensive college preparatory curriculum.

Swain County Schools will apply for a multi-million dollar grant through the new Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund that can be used for school construction.

Denial of a permit to build a 388-bed student housing complex in Cullowhee will land Jackson County in court after Atlanta-based Mallory & Evans Development filed a motion asking for a judge to overturn the decision.

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